Okay, I couldn’t resist the alliteration but I have already traveled and it is not yet Tishrei. We are still in the holy, soul checking month of Elul. However, I have traveled.
I left my safe and lovely home in Denver Colorado (as well as my delightful and fun colleagues at Patheos) to travel all by my lonesome to Eretz Yisrael, the land of Israel. The travel part was long. It involved a rented minivan and drive from Denver to NYC as my younger brother was starting grad school in the city. Then seven days of hanging with him before embarking on the 12 hour plane right to Israel.
Sitting at the gate at JFK, I felt minuscule. There were so many people and so much flying by me. Russian, Hebrew, Yiddish, English, German, and many other languages I couldn’t name. Families and elderly, babies and students. So many people all off on an adventure of their own.
Whenever alone in an airport (which is fairly often for me), I always look for single women to chat with. It is nice to have a person to watch your bags for a quick bathroom or water run. This time I met a woman named Neta. She was almost seven months pregnant. We started chatting and I learned her story as she learned mine. She was traveling the USA with her husband (who was on an earlier flight back to Tel Aviv, unfortunately). They were hiking in the Grand Canyon, New Mexico, all over California, they rented a car and traveled for two months around the United States. When they left Israel, she was barely showing and about at the end of her fourth month of pregnancy. Returning, she had a nice belly and was nearly seven months along. We talked about the surprise her family will have when they see her next. We were line buddies for boarding, which is exponentially harder when you are flying to Israel.
There is a second security check before you get on the plane. Another take your shoes off and laptops out situation and in fact, you cannot take drinks on the plane unless you have the receipt for buying them in the airport! Once through and settled on the plane, Neta and I were parted.
I settled in for the long flight. It was an evening flight where we got dinner right away and then the best plan is to sleep for as long as you can. Still you hear strains of a multitude of languages floating along the cabin. By ‘morning’ or wake-up time, we have crossed 7 time zones… it is 1:30pm in Israel. We have ‘breakfast/lunch’ and touchdown in Eretz Yisrael.
That is an amazing feeling! Wow! Everyone applauds and you look out the window to see the desert stretching far and wide before you. Palm trees dot the distance and new construction is everywhere. Ben Gurion airport is technically Tel Aviv but you aren’t near the sea. I didn’t feel holy but I was glad to be out of my seat prison.
Once arrived you have the whole new country/passport/customs deal. Get stamped, get luggage and find your way. This trip was so different from my last. Previously, I was a kid, 12/16/17 years old… buses came for us. This time, I had to find my own way on a supershuttle like taxi to Jerusalem… Now that… that was scary!
Stay tuned for part two…